This past Christmas, Gimme Noise asked a handful of local musicians to help us make sense of a holiday where the accompanying songbook seemed to be guided by all things commercial. Valentines Day has those talking points a bit reversed.
There's no magical tradition built around Valentine's Day. Many young-at-heart couples will likely spend the next February 14 with someone else or alone. Singles may wallow around to a Magnetic Fields record or go out and try for a lay, but both the depressives and libertines would still likely root against a repeat for the following year. So while the day itself may feel forced or manufactured, the day's soundtrack can be personal or intimate even if you're home alone drinking and eating for two.
Since today's iPod playlist may be filled with songs either swooning or spurned, Gimme Noise checked in with Pony Trash frontman Neil Weir and The Current's David Campbell to touch upon the finer art of both heartache and adoration.
The Love Song: "Right Down the Line" by Gerry Rafferty
City Pages: This is an older one. When did you first hear the song?
Neil Weir: It's a song that I remember hearing on the radio when I was a kid -- usually on oldie stations -- and kind of forgot about for years. I think four or five years ago Colin from Vampire Hands mentioned something about it being such a good song, and so I've been hooked on it for the last few years.
CP: I was curious about when you connected with it, because it's one of those golden oldies you would likely hear as a kid but its a very profound song for a child to connect with?
NW: Yeah, it's kind of hard to talk about a song in that sort of literal way. What's happening there with his attitude and songwriting is so good that it has this kind of mysterious and convincing quality to it that I think kind of hooked me in before I even totally digested the lyrics.
CP: It's a deceptively dense song too. There's five verses and each one is pretty loaded. It's pretty different from Pony Trash's style. I feel like you often let your guitar do most of the talking.
NW: Even these more direct lyrics in something like a love song is kind of interesting to me. A lot of times the love songs I'm drawn to almost have a level of inappropriateness in the situation or some sort of dramatic irony where you as the listener knows something more than the character does. But then you'll hear something so direct and so good that it kind of blows all that stuff away like the "Right Down the Line" lyric. Or like "I Want You" from Blonde on Blonde. In those structures, they're so great melodically and they're so straight-forward but very powerful at the same time. As someone who writes songs, I would love to be able to do that. It happens so rarely when something can be that direct, and that's where it's strength is.
CP: So why are these simple love song lines like "Right Down the Line" or "I Want You" so hard to stumble upon as a songwriter?
NW: I don't think it's just the simplicity but the fact that songs like "Right Down the Line" or "I Want You" have this feeling of finality to themthat's kind of interesting and hard to make work. The finality is hard to execute confidently without being terrible.